Travel to Mekelle – City of Rock Hewn Churches

Underground Church

Mekelle, also spelled Makale and Mek’ele, is one of the most pleasant places to visit in Ethiopia. Its rock hewn churches make the city a resting place for cultural travellers.

Mekelle is dotted with many sites that are worth visiting and is the capital of the Tigray region. It is also home to the headquarters of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Historians report that it was founded in the 13th century. However, its heyday came soon during the later 19th century after Yohannes IV was crowned as King of Kings of Ethiopia and chose Mekelle as the capital of his realm.

During the First Italo-Abyssinian War, the Italians occupied Mekelle from the beginning of the war in 1895 until they surrendered their half-completed fort built on the graveyard of the church of Inda Iyesus in January 1896.

During the Woyane rebellion, Mekelle was held by the rebels following their capture of Qwiha on the main Asmera – Addis Ababa highway 17 September 1943. The government recovered Mekelle on the 14th of October, following their defeat of the Woyane in the Battle of Amba Alagi.

The primary local landmark in this city is the Palace of Yohannes IV, built at the Emperor’s command by Giacomo Naretti. The complex still stands and now serves as a museum, where the Emperor’s throne, royal bed, ceremonial dress, rifles and many other valuable historical collections can be seen.

Other notable landmarks include the churches of Mek’ele Bete Mengist, Mek’ele Iyesus Bete Kristiyan, Mek’ele Maryam Bete Kristiyan, Mek’ele Selassie Bete Kristiyan, and Mek’ele Tekle Haymanot Bete Kristiyan.

  • Explore the city and choose from over 120 rock hewn churches.
  • See valuable historical collections that used to belong to Emperor Yohannes IV.
  • A local market has been held every Monday since at least 1890.


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